No, My Family Member Didn’t ‘Deserve To Die’ Because He Struggled With Addiction

No, My Family Member Didn’t ‘Deserve To Die’ Because He Struggled With Addiction

That person you have equated to be nothing more than their addiction is so much more than that.
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I'm sick of hearing these words. I'm absolutely sick and tired of hearing these words come out of others' mouths. It's repulsive and dehumanizing to say that someone "deserves to die" because of a struggle with substance abuse or alcohol abuse.

You can make the argument that he "made a choice." Go ahead, do it. You're entitled to your opinion.

But don't you dare say that he deserved to die.

You're saying that about someone's loved one. You're saying that about a human being who struggled with a very real and very prevalent problem in today's society.

If the tables were flipped, how would you feel?

How would you feel if you had people say to you, "he made a choice, so he has to pay for the consequences."

We talk about them like criminals. As if death is a "deserved side effect" of drug and alcohol usage.

When a teenager dies from an overdose, we're saying, "wow, that's tragic, he was so young." But when an adult dies, we say, "oh, he should have known better."

If that adult has been using since childhood, no, he or she really may not "know better."

I get it, OK. I get that not everyone believes drug addiction and alcohol addiction are diseases. As I said earlier, you're completely entitled to your opinion.

But to say someone deserved death, that's repulsive.

When people say that people with drug and alcohol addictions deserve to die, it's personal for me.

It's personal because I lost someone from those very causes.

It's personal because every day I choose not to drink even though I'm 21.

It's personal because every day I see people using drugs in and around my campus while I walk by avoiding the shouts to "buy some."

That person you have decided is nothing more than their addiction is so much more than that.

We all have our problems. Even Kim Kardashian, who the media believes to be perfect, has her problems.

But, until we recognize that someone who struggles with drug and alcohol usage is still a human being, our rhetoric isn't going to change.

I'm sorry to break it to you, but if you've ever made a nasty comment about someone struggling with addiction by calling them a "junkie" or some other foul word, you're part of the problem.

If you refer to someone who has gone through rehab as "clean" you're also part of the problem because that implies that those who aren't "clean," aka those who are using, are "dirty."

Again, that makes you part of the problem.

I'm not saying we are going to up and change overnight. I know that isn't realistic.

We do, however, need to be conscientious of how and why we use the rhetoric that we do when it comes to those in recovery and those struggling with addiction.

Sit back for a second and put yourself in their shoes.

How would you feel if you had people telling you that you deserved to die?

Just let that one sink in, and then come back and tell me how you feel about that rhetoric you've been using.

Cover Image Credit: 123rf

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Yes, I Had A Stroke And I'm Only 20

Sometimes bad things happen to good people.
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Recently, I read an article on Cosmo that was written by a woman that had a stroke at the ripe old age of 23. For those of you who don't know, that really doesn't happen. Young people don't have strokes. Some do, but it's so incredibly uncommon that it rarely crosses most people's minds. Her piece was really moving, and I related a lot -- because I had a stroke at 20.

It started as a simple headache. I didn't think much of it because I get headaches pretty often. At the time, I worked for my parents, and I texted my mom to tell her that I'd be late to work because of the pain. I had never experienced a headache like that, but I figured it still wasn't something to worry about. I went about my normal routine, and it steadily got worse. It got to the point that I literally threw up from the pain. My mom told me to take some Tylenol, but I couldn't get to our kitchen. I figured that since I was already in the bathroom, I would just take a shower and hope that the hot steam would relax my muscles, and get rid of my headache. So I turned the water on in the shower, and I waited for it to get hot.

At this point, I was sweating. I've never been that warm in my life. My head was still killing me. I was sitting on the floor of the bathroom, trying to at least cope with the pain. Finally, I decided that I needed to go to the hospital. I picked up my phone to call 911, but I couldn't see the screen. I couldn't read anything. I laid down on the floor and tried to swipe from the lock screen to the emergency call screen, but I couldn't even manage that. My fine motor skills were completely gone. My fingers wouldn't cooperate, even though I knew what buttons needed to be pressed. Instead of swiping to the emergency call screen, I threw my phone across the room. "Okay," I thought, "Large muscle groups are working. Small ones are not".

I tried getting up. That also wasn't happening. I was so unstable that I couldn't stay standing. I tried turning off the running water of the shower, but couldn't move the faucet. Eventually, I gave up on trying to move anywhere. "At what point do I just give up and lie on the floor until someone finds me?" That was the point. I ended up lying on the floor for two hours until my dad came home and found me.

During that two hours, I couldn't hear. My ears were roaring, not even ringing. I tried to yell, but I couldn't form a sentence. I was simply stuck, and couldn't do anything about it. I still had no idea what was going on.

When the ambulance finally got there, they put me on a stretcher and loaded me into the back. "Are you afraid of needles or anything?" asked one EMT. "Terrified," I responded, and she started an IV without hesitation. To this day, I don't know if that word actually came out of my mouth, but I'm so glad she started the IV. She started pumping pain medicine, but it didn't seem to be doing anything.

We got to the hospital, and the doctors there were going to treat me for a migraine and send me on my merry way. This was obviously not a migraine. When I could finally speak again, they kept asking if I was prone to migraines. "I've never had a migraine in my whole life," I would say. "Do you do any drugs?" they would ask. "No," I repeated over and over. At this point, I was fading in and out of consciousness, probably from the pain or the pain medicine.

At one point, I heard the doctors say that they couldn't handle whatever was wrong with me at our local hospital and that I would need to be flown somewhere. They decided on University of Maryland in Baltimore. My parents asked if I wanted them to wait with me or start driving, so I had them leave.

The helicopter arrived soon after, and I was loaded into it. 45 minutes later, I was in Baltimore. That was the last thing I remember. The next thing I remember was being in the hospital two weeks later. I had a drain in my head, a central port, and an IV. I honestly didn't know what had happened to me.

As it turns out, I was born with a blood vessel malformation called an AVM. Blood vessels and arteries are supposed to pass blood to one another smoothly, and mine simply weren't. I basically had a knot of blood vessels in my brain that had swelled and almost burst. There was fluid in my brain that wouldn't drain, which was why my head still hurt so bad. The doctors couldn't see through the blood and fluid to operate, so they were simply monitoring me at that point.

When they could finally see, they went in to embolize my aneurysm and try to kill the AVM. After a successful procedure, my headache was finally starting to subside. It had gone from a 10 on the pain scale (which I don't remember), to a 6 (which was when I had started to be conscious), and then down to a 2.

I went to rehab after I was discharged from the hospital, I went to rehab. There, I learned simple things like how to walk and balance, and we tested my fine motor skills to make sure that I could still play the flute. Rehab was both physically and emotionally difficult. I was constantly exhausted.

I still have a few lingering issues from the whole ordeal. I have a tremor in one hand, and I'm mostly deaf in one ear. I still get headaches sometimes, but that's just my brain getting used to regular blood flow. I sleep a lot and slur my words as I get tired. While I still have a few deficits, I'm lucky to even be alive.

Cover Image Credit: Neve McClymont

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We Need To Stop Ignoring Addiction And Actually See It For The Disease It Is

BE KIND.

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Addiction means something different to each and every person. To some it is something they or loved ones have had to deal with, others see it in celebrities/people they look up to, and some really know nothing of it other than media or television.

But to me, it is nothing to be ashamed of.

People can be addicted to many things from shopping to eating, yet where the stigma comes in is when we start dealing with drugs or alcohol. Don't get me wrong, those things are nothing to be proud of but we should NEVER be treating these people like less than, especially if they open up and want help.

I firmly believe that addiction is a disease and not only it being a disease but it can also be in a family's gene pool. Many people and researchers such as the Center on Addiction, Health Harvard Blog, and Addiction Campuses believe that it is a chronic disease. Research is showing how some people are more susceptible (genes). In knowing this, we cannot be pushing these people away and making them feel worse than they already do. We can't just stand by and help them in a way only conducive to yourself.

There are many different ways to help people with addiction. Taking them to get help, not embarrassing them, respecting them as a person, and most importantly to be kind. The ignominy that comes from being an "addict" in our society let alone wanting to open up to someone and ask for help is downright scary.

If someone ever reaches out notice how brave they are and take them in with an open mind. If you see someone with a problem with drugs or alcohol do not try to judge them because if we do that we are further ostracizing addicts from society. Do not let this be a disease we refuse to acknowledge and lose even more of our loved ones.

Above all else BE KIND.

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